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Masked Booby

A Masked Booby standing on a rock at the edge of a cliff with green shrubs in the background. [Photographed by Thomas Rowland]

[Image courtesy of Thomas Rowland]

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Scientific Name: Sula dactylatra

Size: 75 to 85 cm

What does it look like?

This is the largest booby. The Masked Booby is easily recognised by its predominantly white body, except for the prominent black flight feathers and thin black face mask. The long, pointed bill is normally yellow (brighter in males) with a black base, although it can have a greenish or orange wash. The eyes are yellow in all except the subspecies Sula dactylatra tasmani (present on Lord Howe Island), which have dark yellowish-brown eyes. Young birds are brownish above and white below, with a white collar. 

Where is it found?

It is found on marine islands and some coastal areas throughout Australia’s north, from Christmas island in the west to Norfolk Island in the east, and has been recorded breeding on around 35 islands and coral cays within the region (including Cocos (Keeling) Islands). Its global range extends throughout tropical marine waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. 

What are its habitats & habits?

The Masked Booby feeds mainly on fish, but will also take cephalopods, and food is caught during spectacular plunging dives into the water, from heights of up to 100 m. 

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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